Monday, September 27, 2010

Last Chance for Blanche

Blanche Lincoln will be in Northwest Arkansas for her Farewell Tour before going to work peddling influence for a high-priced lobbying outfit on K Street. Rumors are that she might actually show up in a venue that allows her constituents to ask questions and get some explanation for her bizarre voting record.

If so, I want to ask her how it put Arkansas first to:

Sponsor the deficit-inducing reduction of the estate tax for billionaires,

Sponsor the climate killing resolution to strip the EPA of its already limited powers,

Vote against the DREAM Act,

Vote against Pell Grants and student loan reform

Vote against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Oppose the Public Option for citizens needing health care

Vote against majority rule when employees vote to have a union

Take millions in campaign cash from lobbyists and out of state corporate PACs

Support NAFTA and CAFTA to encourage the flight of American jobs

Continue to support unchecked the longest war in U.S. history

Vote for thousands of dollars in federal subsidies for John David Lindsey


This could be your last chance to ask, and if you Don't Ask, she Won't Tell.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cowbirds Polling Cowboys

It's not like we weren't warned by an astute blogger. The Springdale Advertising and Promotion Commission has handed over another $12,000 to its main client, Perry Webb and the Traveling Cowbirds. The latest proposal is to pay a Conway company to do a poll of why people don't go to their annual Rodeo of the Ozarks anymore. Attendance this year was down 20% from 2006, drawing only 19,000 people over four days, which is about what a single Razorback basketball game would see back when they had a good team and a coach worth a damn.

Perry Webb says half of the calls will be made to Springdale residents to find out why they don't like it enough to attend and half to out of towners to see what it would take to get them to come and spend $100. If I get a call, I'm going to ask for one of those taxpayer funded family vacations to exotic foreign destinations like they give Randy and the Traveling Mullikens and certain selected Cowbirds.

Other options might be to send a group of Cowbirds to Spain and take a page from the Pamplona playbook, offering The Running of the Chickens. Or the Running of the Nudes from the local talent. Or they could sponsor the Lame Chicken Games. Or have Rubber Chicken lectures on Jones TV to promote their city. Or bring back Festherfest. Or have a Choke the Chicken contest sponsored by the Springdale Country Club. Perry and the Cowbirds are without bounds in finding ways to spend taxpayer money and call it economic development.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The New Jerusalem in Benton County

Only in Arkansas, and only in Benton County. The Bella Vista City Council is meeting in special session on Friday to consider two important issues -- banning the construction of any mosque and ban the practice of Sharia law within the city limits.

The First Amendment has never been of much interest in Benton County, whether it is challenges to library books deemed dangerous or the right of association for employees wishing to bargain collectively. No doubt, banning all mosques will be supported overwhelmingly by the local residents and the pandering politicians, the constitution notwithstanding.

Now, making the practice of Sharia law unauthorized across the board is the real news. Who knew that the judges and lawyers up there were sneaking in Islamic legal principles to contend with the statutory code of Leviticus and the Ten Commandments. Best to nip that in the bud before the camel's nose gets on a slippery slope.

Bellavistian Kay Strickland sounded the jeremiad today, warning the embattled Christian majority that "America is being taken over from the inside out." She and co-crusader Bill Duncan will not sit by and lose the battle for the soul of Bella Vista. "I must do what I must do, I love America and I love Bella vista," she said.

You think this is a joke, like the politicians in Benton County. Nope. Well, yes, but it is true. To which we say, "مجنون باعتباره لون."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sex and Salvation in Fort Smith

In addition to having the second worst legislative delegation in Arkansas, Fort Smith also provides colorful examples of why its long regime of social, political, and cultural repression cannot stop the true spirit of its people, struggling to doff their chains and breathe free.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a Baptism celebration got a little out of hand when shots were fired and the disc jockey was pistol whipped. Fort Smith Police arrested and booked six young pilgrims on various charges including aggravated assault, curfew violations, marijuana possession and carrying a weapon. This one made CBS national news.

Then yesterday, we learned that Fort Smith Police arrested Darby Junior High School Principal Chris Rink and Darby Junior High Social Studies teacher Brian Rincon for solicitation to exchange their lunch money for sex with an undercover police officer in the 900 block of Rogers Avenue. Fail. Double Fail.

Thank goodness for the Bobby Hopper Tunnel, separating the Fort Smith flocks from the horny preachers and devout child molesters who regularly make the news in Benton County. It is ironic that both places will be voting this November to give everyone else a good dose of national and state candidates who embrace their peculiar family values.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Requium for SouthPass?

It has been six long years since the City ignored the City Plan 2025 and was snookered into an another deal with developers on which the the citizens look like suckers, some of the same developers who were gifted with a $3.7 million TIF deal for a luxury hotel that morphed into a barren parking lot and who would be major campaign contributors to Dan Coody's reelection campaign. With only a City Council resolution authorizing him to negotiate, on September 7, 2004, former Mayor Dan Coody immediately signed a contract with SouthPass Development that had already been prepared and signed by John Nock. When the Council balked in November 2008, City Attorney Kit Williams told them that they had no choice but to approve the development and everything that Coody had promised. Subsequently, Coody waived some of the requirements for the developers, and the City went ahead to build infrastructure that was supposed to be a cost-share project with the developers.

All of the Planned Zoning District and permits for SouthPass were to expire on November 6, 2009, if the Phase One construction was not met. It wasn't. Neither did the developers deliver the required deeds for a 200-acre regional park and 10-acres with water tanks nor the $1 million for park development as required by the contract. All the City has gotten out of this deal has been a toxic landfill, hundreds of thousands of expense for new infrastructure, untold hours of staff time, and a well deserved repution for being a fool.

Thanks to documents released in response to a recent FOIA request, we now know even more. Two days before the permits expired, the developers requested a one-year extension until November 6, 2010. In response to the letter, the City asked for specific reasons for extending the PZD phasing deadlines and subsequent information regarding the timing of the release of the deeds required of the PZD conditions of approval. Since that time, the City has, on numerous occasions, deferred to the developers, property owners, bank representatives and/or attorneys representing the bank to allow additional time in order to negotiate the release of the deeds. It has become increasingly apparent that the lines of communication between the City and the development/ownership group have not been productive, as the City established four deadline commitments that have been extended or missed since these discussions began in November, 10 months ago.

On August 19, 2010, City Planning Director Jeremy Pate told the developers “that unless the deeds are delivered to the City of Fayetteville unencumbered, free and clear of any lien or mortgage and acceptable to the City of Fayetteville before Friday, August 27, at 12:00 pm local Fayetteville time, the request to extend the PZD approval for one year will be denied, to be effective on the same date and time.” That date has come and gone.

City Attorney Kit Williams got involved with a series of memos between John Nock and himself. It appears that the City is sitting on two sets of deeds -- one from the SouthPass developers and one from Chambers Bank pending a deed from SouthPass in lieu of foreclosure. Williams extended the deadline yet again until September 9, because he says Nock says he is trying to get other financing to save his project and cough up the additional $1 million required by the contract. If that doesn't happen, Williams says he will file the deeds from Chambers Bank, but the agreement between Williams and J. R. Meeks of Chambers Bank specifically exempting the bank from "assuming any obligations of SouthPass under any previous agreements and between the City and SouthPass." That is, the City should not count on the promised cost-share expenses and the $1 million it was supposed to get under the contract with SouthPass.

Maybe this will all be over next week, or maybe Williams will cut a new deal granting yet another extension to keep this albatross hanging around our necks for another six years. I think, as Kenny Rogers told me, you need to know when to fold'em and when to walk away. Let's cut our losses and be done with this whole mess.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

J. B. Hunt Gives $5 Million to Children's Hospital

I was pleased to read this week that J.B. Hunt, the trucking firm in Lowell, announced a $5 million gift to Arkansas Children's Hospital toward construction of a new wing. “The hospital does such a wonderful job and plays an important role in the lives of J.B. Hunt employees and their families. We are pleased to be a part of helping expand their world-class facilities and making their services available to a larger number of people across all of Arkansas.”

That is admirable and deserves recognition and thanks, especially considering that neighboring corporations give money to less worthy endeavors. The owners of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has a major operation located in Lowell and holds a monopoly position in this region, is known for pouring money into "charter schools" that undermine the desegregation efforts of the Little Rock School District.

I have no doubt which one is really concerned about children.